In this flagship report we discuss this as well as how the EU can support growth and how the UK can be better at being in Europe. We also make clear recommendations to manufacturers, government and the European Commission to build a stronger economy.
Four decades after joining we are again debating the UK’s future in the European Union. The fundamental question we ask is whether the EU is still working for Britain, in the interests of our economy?
The unequivocal answer from Britain’s manufacturers is yes. They are clear that the UK’s relationship with the EU, its effectiveness and the UK’s ability to influence its priorities, all play an important role in building the better balanced economy we all want to see.
Ultimately, Britain must get better at being a European nation. Since joining the EU our economy has undergone enormous changes and our manufacturing base has been transformed. From the Single Market Act to the Treaty underpinning the creation of the single currency and from the adoption of the Social Chapter to the eastward enlargement of the EU – the role of European Institutions on our economy has not stood still.
Manufacturers are not the only part of our economy that will have a view on our relationship with the EU, but their perspective is an important one. Industry will play a key role in delivering the increased exports, new products and services and more skilled jobs that our economy needs.
Manufacturers believe that being part of the EU can help them to do this and that the EU could do this job a lot better. As an outward looking, open economy we want the UK to continue to be a magnet for investment; we want our companies to compete with the best in the world and we want our industrial base to develop and sell the solutions to tomorrow’s challenges to the rest of the world. It is in Britain’s interests to do this as part of the EU, supporting growth and ultimately creating more jobs and improving living standards. The advantages that EU membership provides in terms of access to markets, efforts to level the playing field, free movement of people, access to partners and funding for greater levels of innovation, all feature in the responses of our members. They are clear that a strong voice on the world stage matters not just to manufacturers, but to our long-term economic prospects as a country and as a global trading nation.
Critics rightly point to areas where the EU is getting it wrong. Too much regulation, inefficient decision-making and an expensive and expansive bureaucracy. This can and must be fixed. In playing our part in fixing the problems we can deliver a better deal for the UK. A deal that builds on the policies that support sustainable growth in our economy for the long-term and reform of the areas that simply do not.
The potential prize for the UK economy of getting this right is significant. Completing the single market; a systematic attack on red tape; pressing ahead with trade and investment deals that open up new markets around the world. All could deliver billions of pounds of benefits to the UK.
But we are in real danger of missing the point. We are hearing too much about what is wrong with Europe. Many of the points its critics make may be valid but we need to raise the level of the debate; it must focus on what we need to ensure that Europe helps us to fulfill our economic potential. Currently it is dogged by misconceptions and poor information. This has to change. We need all those that want a better deal for the UK within Europe to spell out how the EU can work better for all its member states and their citizens; the actions that will make the biggest difference to growth, employment and living standards and ultimately the size of the prize – what we have to gain by playing a leading role in Europe. We must stop focusing on what we don’t like and be better at securing outcomes that are in the interests of our economy. And we must stop perpetuating myths about Europe and set out a clear and positive agenda for change.
The UK economy is closely connected to Europe, so let us focus on making it the strongest it can be.
Download your copy of Manufacturing: Our future in Europe report.